Firefighters battle a blaze at the Islamic Center of Eastside on March 21 in Bellevue. Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Fire Department

Firefighters battle a blaze at the Islamic Center of Eastside on March 21 in Bellevue. Photo courtesy of the Bellevue Fire Department

Bellevue Mosque Arsonist Charged

The 18-year-old suspect allegedly started the fire with toilet paper.

King County prosecutors have charged the man they believe is responsible for lighting a Bellevue mosque on fire in March.

Carlos Daniel Diaz-Cruz, 18, of Bellevue faces one count of first-degree arson and is being held at King County jail on $250,000 bail.

Charged on March 30 and arrested by Bellevue police on March 27, Diaz-Cruz is alleged to have started a fire at the Islamic Center of Eastside on March 21 by lighting a pile of toilet paper on fire with a cigarette lighter. At this time, officials do not believe the fire was a hate crime.

The building had been vacant since Jan. 14, 2017 when it was first set on fire. Isaac Wayne Wilson, 37, pleaded guilty to reckless burning in connection with that fire after being initially charged with second-degree arson.

Working with the FBI, the ATF, Bellevue police, and the Bellevue Fire Department, investigators were able to identify five young men ages 15-19 who were caught on video running from the scene of the fire minutes before flames embroiled the building. Bellevue police reached out to a school resource officer at Odle Middle School, who, with the help of other district personnel, was able to identify three of the young men seen running from the fire.

One of those was Diaz-Cruz.

In interviews with police, the young men all implicated Diaz-Cruz in the arson, stating he was “ripping up the church by kicking windows and breaking them” as the five hung out and ate pizza. But then Diaz-Cruz allegedly stacked toilet paper in the middle of the downstairs room in a “very large pile.”

“Carlos then used his cigarette lighter to ignite the toilet paper on fire,” charging documents state. “[One young man] said he and the others yelled at Carlos to stop several times.”

One teen even stomped the fire out multiple times before Diaz-Cruz allegedly prevailed and got the fire to quickly spread. Court documents state the suspect was irritated when his friends attempted to “thwart” his efforts.

All of the witnesses said they didn’t believe the crime was motivated by hate. Some say Diaz-Cruz was simply “being stupid,” while others said they thought the suspect was “crazy” or “wasn’t right in the head.”

A few also reported to police they heard the suspect say he was going to “burn this s*** down,” referring to the mosque.

When investigators interviewed Diaz-Cruz, he was the only one of the five who indicated he didn’t want to talk to police. When an officer explained why he was there, Diaz-Cruz responded that “he didn’t have anything against God.”

According to court records, Diaz-Cruz has a violent criminal history. In 2017, he was convicted of second-degree assault, fourth-degree assault, first-degree theft, and third-degree malicious mischief. In the second-degree assault case, “the defendant slashed a victim with a knife lacerating the victim’s left shoulder.” He served five months in jail for that crime.

Diaz-Cruz is scheduled to be arraigned for his arson charge on April 12.

A version of this story first appeared in the Bellevue Reporter.

More in News & Comment

Redmond’s Neelam Chahlia crowned as Mrs. Washington America and competing for the national Mrs. America title on Aug. 26. Photo courtesy of Neelam Chahlia
Redmond’s Chahlia to compete for Mrs. America 2020 title

Mrs. Washington America winner says her journey embodies the ‘American Dream.’

Alaska Airlines to begin Everett-Spokane service on Nov. 4

It will be the carrier’s first in-state route and its 10th destination from Paine Field.

As his wife Heather looks on, John Norman gets a hug from his daughter Amber Nelson, and granddaughter Ashlee Nelson, right, after his replica of the Spirit of St. Louis flew for the first time from Arlington Municipal Airport on Sunday, July 28, 2019 in Arlington, Wash. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)
This might be the best Spirit of St. Louis replica ever made

A plane like the one Charles Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic logged its first flight in Arlington.

Renton Police Officer Tanuj Soni has been charged with fourth-degree assault with sexual motivation and abuse of office. Photo courtesy of City of Renton
Court documents reveal details of alleged assault by a Renton police officer

Deputy Chief says RPD is performing an internal investigation

Chronicling the last years of a dying North Cascades glacier

For nearly four decades, scientist Mauri Pelto has journeyed to measure the melting Columbia Glacier.

What can otters tell us about watershed pollution?

An Oregon professor spent a year on Whidbey studying river otters for insight into the environment.

Lying, spying and destroying evidence spur guardian reforms

Judges say court-appointed guardians broke the law to keep a child away from her troubled parents.

Woman accused of trying to lure girl from family in Edmonds

The Lynnwood suspect allegedly was also seen photographing the 4-year-old at the Edmonds Yacht Club.

Bikini baristas could take dress code fight to Supreme Court

For now, they’ve requested a rehearing after the federal court sided with the city of Everett in July.

Most Read